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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Curbing corruption in India

There’s not an areas of India that’s not affected of corruption. Corruption in the field adoption has the beginning with someone somewhere had agreed to compromise on the laid down standards of the government. Curbing corruption has direct impact on the field of adoption.

During an evaluation of a family, I learnt that I couldn’t enroll them into our Community Outreach Program that assists HIV positive families in need of help because they do not have a ration card. When enquired, mother stated that she couldn’t afford to pay the bribe money to get one. Not surprising at all because corruption in India is a norm and it is getting worse which is reflected by the downgrading of India ranking by ‘Transparency International’ (corruption measuring organization).

When there’s failure to recognize the burden of corruption on India from its total context (social, economic and moral), solutions tend to be ideological and philosophical. Need of the hour in India is pragmatic and enforceable initiatives that are based on sound logic and common sense. I would like to present two such ideas:

Start MACI: Menace like corruption in India cannot be curbed by ‘bottoms up & outside-in’ approach rather only through ‘top down & inside-out’ approach. When the head of the household isn’t walking the talk, other members of the household believe that is an acceptable way to follow. Hence, Indian Parliament must be set in order first.

A cabinet rank “Ministry for Anti Corruption Initiatives” or MACI must be created. MACI is expected to be successful for two reasons namely social auditing and employment accountability.

MACI will be subjected to lobbying by social entrepreneurs/ activists with innovative policy initiatives to be incorporated in to legislations who will also be doing social auditing to do external performance evaluation of the ministry while the Prime Minister holds the employment accountability internally.

For example, MACI could integrate or delink vertical and horizontal operations of various departments. For example delinking departments of police and judiciary from the political establishment is one such measure to quote. Without MACI, any amount of measures (including those mentioned below) to combat corruption is futile.

Revenue sharing: Commonly heard argument by the recipients of the bribe is that they don’t get adequate compensation for their work. The term ‘adequate’ may be relative but tackling this menace is absolute. Unless and until we provide incentives to those that are fighting corruption, there’s no motivation.

Recently Indian cabinet has approved an initiative for scientists in the government to share the revenues that are generated by their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Scientists get 30% of total revenues after deducting the expenses. Part of the proceeds also goes to a common fund to support future research.

Similar initiative can be replicated in the field of corruption. For example, if there’s a fine of 100 rupees for speeding, increase the fine by five times (Rs. 500/-) and have a formula (like 30% stated above) to distribute the proceeds to the officer on the field and then have a common fund for other staff.

In the example above, unless the offender is willing to pay more than Rs. 150/- (30% of 500 rupees) as a bribe, officer sees himself at a loss. For him to get 150 rupees as an incentive from the government, he must charge the violator 500 rupees.

This, apart from increasing the government revenue, fine amount increase also works as deterrence. It is foolish to think that there won’t be abuse and that must be curtailed by building adequate checks and balances. It can be undertaken on a pilot basis in a small area (like a district) to collect data to study before scaling to other areas.

Accountable and transparent governance is the solemn obligation of the elected leadership and anything less would amount to undermining of future of democracy.

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